Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/795

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SCIENCE AND MORALITY.

most important matter of all they have retrograded to this extent, what becomes of the hope of civilization?

Yet Mr. Spencer himself sees the promised land of evolutionary adjustment and felicity from a very advanced Pisgah. His man is a man in a suburban villa with a good business in the city, who has only to be content with a sufficient income, avoiding the moral gulf of overwork, and that of "snatching a hasty sandwich," instead of taking a regular luncheon every day. Alas! to say nothing of the myriads who in the past have lived and died in slavery and misery of all kinds, how many centuries must elapse before the question between a hasty sandwich and a regular luncheon becomes a practical one for any appreciable portion of mankind! To do too much office-work is bad for health, and therefore, as Mr. Spencer most truly says, bad in every way; but how many are there who must either do too much work or starve! It is not healthful to be on the wintry Atlantic clinging to the frozen shrouds, to pant all day beside the fiery furnace, to be delving in the dark mine, to be sitting as a cab-driver exposed to all weathers, to be toiling as a farm-laborer with overtasked sinews from dawn to dusk. Of the labor which is the lot of most men, and in which their lives are almost entirely spent, very little is, like that of the artist, relieved by any sense of enjoyment; the bulk of it is drudgery and nothing else. Schopenhauer exaggerates, of course. Were it not so, the end, in spite of his super-subtile objection to the exertion of will in self-destruction, would be universal suicide. There is happiness in life; above all, the happiness of affection, though it is in this that we most keenly feel the sting of death. Yet if this life were all, and if enjoyment were the object of being, it would be difficult to deny that the pessimist had a formidable case, or that the world, on the whole and for the majority of mankind, was a failure. It is, at least it may be, otherwise if the theistic hypothesis is true, if the secret of the universe is not mechanical but moral, if the paramount object is the formation of character, and if the results of effort are to endure, in any form whatever, beyond the physical catastrophe of the planet. Trying to be good is within the power of a galley-slave; and it is conceivable that by being ever so little better than himself the most abject of mankind may cast into the moral treasury a mite more precious in the estimation of the Author of our moral being than the effortless virtue of a born seraph. In touching upon such points we feel that the criticism which repels a physical account of morality is not merely destructive, but conserves something on which it is possible that a rational theology may hereafter be partly based.

In short, while we find, as was said before, in the "Data of Ethics" much that is acute, much that is eloquent, much that is interesting, we do not find in it a new basis of morality. We do not find a practical answer to the question which was put at the beginning. We do not find anything that, on the mass of mankind, is likely to act as